Getting Started

A Visual Icebreaker can be used effectively at several points during a meeting, training, or facilitation. You can use it at the beginning to help people get comfortable with each other and the topic. Later in the day, use it to energize the group — perhaps after lunch or when the group energy seems low. It can also be used at the end of your process to help review the learning or identify what people are taking away.

The exercises will take approximately five to eight minutes. Under certain circumstances, it is not unusual for people to experience big breakthroughs, which may require additional debriefing time. We encourage you to make the time for this extra debriefing as it will invariably lead to strengthening your team and creating an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust.

Once you have used this image deck a few times, you will get a sense of how people respond to the questions. If you have not used one of our image decks before, we recommend that you practice using it with colleagues, friends or family members to get a chance to understand the different ways in which people will respond.

Read Choosing an Icebreaker for tips on which exercise to use in a given situation.

What was the question?

It’s not unusual for participants to want you, as the facilitator, to explain to them what the exact meaning of the prompt is. We encourage you to tell people that they can interpret the prompt in any way they like. One of the
interesting aspects of these processes is how people interpret the question or prompt. By observing this aspect of the interaction, you will gain more insight into your group.


The icebreaker exercises in this section are designed primarily to address one of several purposes. These focus areas are:

  • Introductions: Get a sense of who is in the room
  • Trust Building: Help people feel comfortable talking with each other and participating
  • Mini Assessment: Discover where people are relative to the topic
  • Engagement: Spur on interaction with the topic
  • Alignment: Orient the group to move in the same direction

Of course, the best icebreaker activity will accomplish all of these. By looking at your audience and what outcome you hope to achieve, however, you can assess which of these purposes is the most important to focus on.

These icebreaker objectives tend to be hierarchical, depending on the readiness of your group. At the most basic level is the need to make introductions. Conversely, a group and facilitator or leader who are well-known to each other and have a foundation of trust may wish to target an objective higher up the pyramid, perhaps focusing on engagement or

Beyond the traditional icebreaker role, this image deck can also be used later in the meeting, training or facilitation. Often, in those cases, the activity takes on a slightly different function, typically falling into one of the following two

  • Energizers: Revitalize the group if they are stuck or their energy is waning
  • Reflection Prompts: Help the group absorb the learning

It is likely that some participants will have had some previous experiences with icebreakers that were not ideal. Perhaps the participants felt they were a waste of time or were superfluous. Because this visual method has been designed to integrate directly into your processes and content, your group will appreciate that their time hasn’t been wasted and that they weren’t subjected to irrelevant material.

Plus, getting started with an exercise where participants will be successful also helps them to begin to engage in a safe manner.

The brain absorbs images in chunks, making associations to previous experiences and knowledge. Using images offers the potential to arouse curiosity, get everyone participating and allow everyone to contribute at a level that is comfortable for them.

The information gained through these image-based icebreakers is more meaningful to participants, because they are the ones making a connection between what they know and what they will be doing. Images are concrete and memorable without having to work very hard.

Throughout this guide you will see the term ‘prompt’ used. A prompt is a question or statement that initiates a conversation.


The Visual Icebreaker is also available in a printed version.